By Anna O. Shepard
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Additional info for Ceramics for the Archaeologist
Clay colloids are of this class, and the characeristic has a relation to plasticity. Particle shape. The shape of clay particles is of interest because it affects the way in which they will pack. The hexagonal outline of coarse crystals of kaolinite has long been recognized, and the electron microscope has shown that this shape is retained even in very fine clay. There are variations in form, however, and some crystals have a tendency toward elongation in one direction. From the measurement of shadows, the thickness of plates is found to be 8-10 per cent of their diameters.
Such clay contains grains of the more stable minerals of the parent rock, especially quartz and micas, and these deposits show a transition from clay through partially altered to fresh rock on passing downward. Such beds vary widely in their extent, properties, and usefulness. They may be formed from extensive rock masses or from narrow veins as of pegmatite. They are often formed by weathering under normal temperatures. Since this action is very slow, they are seldom of great depth. Alteration may also take place through the action of hot, mineralized waters rising in veins.
Clay is difficult to define precisely because the term has been applied to a variety of materials differing in both origin and composition. It is broadly defined as a fine-grained, earthy material that develops plasticity when mixed with water. Its essential chemical components are silica, alumina, and water; frequently it also contains appreciable amounts of iron, alkalies, and alkaline earths. The term " c l a y / \ however, has been applied to materials that have some but not all of these properties.